Feb. 11, 2011RATTO ARCHIVECAL SAVES 3 SPORTS -- CUTS BASEBALL, MEN'S GYMNASTICS
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And so it ends. California baseball and mens gymnastics could not survive the new political realities of intercollegiate sports at a state school whose state is withdrawing from education and social programs.
And if that sounds convoluted, the reality is far more tangled. After all, this is Cal.
The three survivors from the California Five, rugby, womens gymnastics and lacrosse, were careful not to exult too loudly. At least youd like to think so -- baseball was the powerful money-raiser in the mega-bake sale designed to save all five endangered sports, and it still failed to earn enough to save itself.
But the result only convolutes the situation at Cal, where athletic director Sandy Barbour is probably politically weaker but less of a villain than it seemed.
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Her failing was that she hasnt found new donor streams to more equitably transfer the weight of so many programs from a university and a state that has its own fiscal squeezes. For that, she will pay a price in support, and thats just life in the NFL, Jack. Make the play or call it a day.
But it cannot reasonably be said that she didnt exhaust all the available possibilities. The college athletics support system has rarely been based on revenues from football and mens basketball alone -- its taken big checks from big check writers to keep the Cal athletic department running.
But when the scare of extinction doesnt raise enough money to save two of the five well, one can only assume that lacrosse, rugby and womens gymnastics should not feel terribly comfortable. Theirs is a temporary reprieve at best, because the state hasnt solved its issues, and the university hasnt solved its issues.
This is, in short, a glorious short-term solution. And only that.
The harder questions, like how a university that wants to run a large athletic program finds the way to trim budgets without slicing into football and mens basketball, the two largest cash engines, remain deferred.
Too much is demanded by those programs, and too much is demanded of them, thereby creating the imbalance that rankles all the other pursuits the school claims to stand behind. The result means increased pressure on the coaches of the big programs to generate cash not only for their own concerns but for the others as well.
BRAZIL: Baseball simply a martyr at Cal
Cal hasnt operated that way, dipping into other university funds to handle its other business, but without the schools help, those pressures will increase across the board. Jeff Tedford and Mike Montgomery will have to be better cash cows, and not just for themselves. The California Five-Minus-Two will have to be in charge of their own bake sales, and sell more cakes than ever. Barbour will have to dance twice as fast for half as much money.
In short, California athletics is about to become a very taut drumhead of crossing tensions. Today is a brutal day for two proud programs caught in the abattoir of public funding, and a great sigh of relief for the survivors, but it is also the start of a long, painful inhale. The job of making this all work just got harder, much harder. And there is no finish line in sight that anyone wants to see.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.